There's a lot in the press today about what happened in Rochdale to the girls who were abused, by Asian men. Rochdale is my home town....for ten years I taught English as a second language there to newly arrived immigrants.
I don't believe I am racist....I used to go on anti racist marches and was attacked by the BNP who were not shy at throwing insults at me when I defended the children I taught.
We have now arrived in a situation where people are afraid to criticise those of different ethnicity for fear of being called racist.
This happened to me when I was teaching in Essex when I told off a teenage Jamaican boy for sticking his pen into the hand of his neighbour as he tried to write.
He turned on me....shouting out to the class that I was a racist . Stunned for a moment I came back with something like.
"If I hadn't told you off, if I had ignored the blood pouring out over the desk that really would have made me racist! "
I think that's the thrust of it now......If we are very aware of the differences between us, of race, of religion, of class, then its the first thing that comes up.... its an easy retort and one that's difficult to refute.
These men in Rochdale were Asians....they could just as easily have been any other race you care to mention.... but they weren't , they were Asian. It would be racist to avoid saying it.
To degrade other human beings , especially young people is a betrayal of our own humanity....no one could possibly condone it but to make it into an excuse for racism is very sad.....
We should not hesitate to condemn anyone who hurts other people deliberately but neither should we shy away from it because we are afraid of being labelled racist!
There are some people so scarred by what has been done or said about their particular race that they are ready to believe that any criticism of them contains the seed of prejudice...
To have no prejudice of any kind is hard....we are all formed by our life's experience, but we do have to try to see things as they are and to speak out without being afraid of name calling.
To be aware of people as individuals with no racist overtones is often hard but no good purpose is served by deliberately choosing not to castigate those who deserve it no matter what their skin tone.